He began as a goldsmith, actually. In fact, he studied under the man who made Napoleon’s gold.
But during his time off goldsmithing, he used to wander on the banks of the Seine in the 5éme Arondissement, through that superlative botannical garden, the Jardin Des Plantes.
But not for the plantes, you understand. For the animals.
Antoine-Louis Barye would wander through the garden, pad in hand, brandishing a pencil, and make tempestuous sketches of the animals which wandered through the gardens. He would go back and make small, sinuous bronzes.
But he wanted to work on bigger sculptures, become a sculpteur statuaire. And he did. Throughout his life he was a prolific animal sculptor. It was critics who first coined the term ‘ ‘animalier’ for him, and then for those contemporaries who followed suit. I am not all together sure the term was meant kindly.
And ever since, animaliers have been plying their trade, and we have had to walk exhibitions trying to separate our love of familiar companions from our analysis of the technique of the artists. It is hard to view these things dispassionately.
Pottering around the stunning gardens of Beaulieu, the Hampshire home of the Motor Museum and abbey ruins, it became apparent the animaliers were out in force. Look Twice is an exhibition of sculptures, many of them animals, scattered around the ruins and gardens.
But I looked more than twice when I came upon the work of one animalier. Carol Orwin has been around every since the St Martin School of Art accepted her, in 1972, to study under Sir Anthony Caro and Phillip King. She worked out of a studio in the Barbican for a stretch, abd then settled down with her own studio in Guildford.
She had a little dog sit for her; a female. She was nicknamed Dame Judi by the sculptor, because she had the behaviour and poise of an actress. And Dame Judi made it to the exhibition.
Regulars to these pages look twice. For this is what I saw:
Remind you of anyone?